Demand for both physicians and nurse practitioners driving up compensation, study finds

Medicine Money
Demand is driving compensation for both doctors and nurse practitioners, a new study finds. (Getty/utah778)

There’s a big demand for both physicians and nurse practitioners (NPs), and it's driving up compensation, according to a new study.

The demand for physicians in the U.S. surged in 2018, with a 7% increase in job openings, according to a report from Doximity, the medical social network. That outpaced the 5% growth Doximity observed in 2017.

The study, based on an analysis of approximately 8,000 physician jobs posted on the network in 2017 and 2018, found that job growth correlated with strong regional increases in compensation as well.

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With strong economic growth in 2018, the healthcare sector also grew. “However, the demand growth we’re finding seems to be outpacing the strong economy, and it’s possible that this represents an early warning of demand outstripping the available supply of medical talent,” said Amit Phull, M.D., Doximity’s vice president of strategy and insights, in a release.

Amit Phull
Amit Phull, M.D. (Doximity)

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The U.S. is facing a doctor shortage that’s expected to grow to as many as 120,000 physicians by 2030, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

The Doximity report has seen an increase in physician job growth two years in a row, which is not expected to stop. With an aging U.S. population, “we’re certainly going to see the same trend next year,” said Christopher Whaley, Ph.D., lead author of the report and adjunct assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health. 

The biggest demand for doctors was in family medicine, internal medicine, emergency medicine, psychiatry and obstetrics and gynecology. However, a high demand for physicians does not always correlate with pay increases, the report found. For instance, in areas with large academic medical centers, there’s a demand for doctors but competition can be stiff for those jobs, which doesn’t necessarily correlate with higher salaries, Phull said.

Based on 70,000 self-reported compensation surveys, metropolitan areas with the highest pay growth for physicians ranged from a high of 15% in Fresno, California, and New Orleans to a low of 2% in San Francisco.

The cities driving physician demand aren’t the typical medical hubs one might expect. On the list of the top 10 cities with the highest physician job growth are Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Virginia Beach, Virginia.

The top 5 metros where doctors are most in demand are Tucson, Arizona; Los Angeles; Chicago; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Baltimore.

A look at nurse practitioners

For the first time, Doximity also analyzed data for nurse practitioners in its 2018 employment report and found growth in compensation for those positions as well, Phull said. In light of the growing demand for clinical care staff, NPs experienced a growth of roughly 3% in average compensation nationally, the report found.

The report ranked the top 15 metropolitan areas with the highest growth in compensation for NPs and found it ranged from 15% in Little Rock, Arkansas, to 3% in Columbus, Ohio. The top 5 metropolitan areas where NPs are most in demand were Fresno, California; New Orleans; Fayetteville, Arkansas; Albany, New York and Baltimore.

Christopher Whaley
Christopher Whaley (Doximity)

The specialties most in demand are family, general and adult care NPs.

Technology not replacing clinicians

While it has been predicted that new technology innovations such as artificial intelligence and machine learning in disease diagnosis will reduce physician employment, the Doximity report found just the opposite.

“It’s simply not borne out by the data,” said Phull. If anything, the introduction of new technologies is correlating with increases in clinical employment opportunities nationally, the report said.

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